Make Sure Your Open Plan Office Includes Plants

When you’re creating an open plan office environment make sure you include plants in your design.

Plants at work make you happier and more productive, say psychologists. Studies show that people who work in offices with living plants are 15% more productive and they tend to collaborate more easily. They also enjoy higher levels of memory retention and remained more engaged while working.

People who work in offices with plants are happier and healthier.

Happier in the Office


The downside of energy efficiency is that we’re often cut off from fresh air. If you’re in a building that hasn’t been designed to current L.E.E.D. standards, you’ll be pleased to know that the solution is easy and very cost-effective. Just add plants.

Karmal Meattle, a member of a team in India, studied the effects that these plants had on the work environment in a building in Delhi, India – one of the most air-polluted cities in the world. The study revealed that incorporating the Areca Palm, Mother-in-Law’s-Tongue and the Money Plant into the office spaces throughout the building not only cleaned up the air, but actually produced a higher level of available oxygen.  There’s a link to Meattle’s TED Talk at the end of this article.


office-plantsWhat’s fascinating is that, according to Meattle, if you were to lock yourself into an airtight dome with the plants he suggests, you wouldn’t run out of oxygen because they actually ‘grow fresh air’.

As part of that process, they actually remove harmful toxins such as formaldehyde and other substances released by furniture, floor coverings, walls and so on.

Deby Barnhart of Cornell Farm references NASA research by Dr. B.C. Wolverton, which substantiates Meattle’s findings.

Barnhart says that there are plants that can remove not only formaldehyde, but also benzine and trichloroethylene amongst other pollutants. The plants she suggests for removal of formaldehyde are Pathos, Philodendron, Boston Ferns and Spider Plants.


In case you thought that your environment didn’t have any formaldehyde off gassing, remember that this will be produced by many carpets, cleaners, foam insulation, some furniture, paper products, plywood and particle board… just your everyday, common place office components!
Adhesives, dry cleaning, inks and dyes, lacquers, paints and varnishes produce trichloroethylene. Gerbera Daisies and potted Mums help to eliminate this chemical.
If you need to clean up benzine in your office atmosphere, try Draecena, Gerbera Daisies and potted Mums. Benzine is produced by detergents, inks and dyes, petroleum products, plastics, rubber, synthetic fibres and tobacco smoke. Once again, some of these are commonly found in offices.

The NASA study suggests using 1 plant for every 100 square feet of space to maximize absorption.



office-plantsIt seems that plants don’t just clean the air, they also make us feel better mentally and emotionally. Considering the payoff, it doesn’t make sense to leave them out of the equation when it comes to modern office design.

Plants help us to de-stress. Most foliage is green and there’s a good reason that this color is found so abundantly in nature. Green and blue are very soothing colors. In fact, even just a glimpse of nature, whether it’s out a window or in a picture on your cubicle wall, helps us to relax and feel refreshed.

This of course, lowers our stress levels and helps us to focus better and be more productive. Of course, live plants will have an even more noticeable effect.

Less stress means less wear and tear on our bodies which, in turn, means less susceptibility to illness. Less illness means less absenteeism, meaning lower costs and higher productivity.


office-plantsAnother advantage of populating your office with plants is that they help with the acoustic pollution. They help absorb sound between work stations. They also provide a visual barrier and create a feeling of privacy. These are important benefits when people are trying to focus and concentrate on a task, and, it’s an absolute boon for introverts who often feel overwhelmed in the open plan office environment.

Both the Areca Palm and the Mother-in-Law’s Tongue are suitable for creating a visual wall while the Money Plant can be trained to grow into whatever shape you desire as it is a creeper of sorts. They’re all also fairly low maintenance.

How to decide which plants to use:

Begin by assessing the area where the plant is going to live.

  • Is there a lot of natural light, or is it low light?
  • Will it get any sun?
  • Are you a green thumb who loves to garden, or are you all thumbs?
  • Will you remember to water your plants regularly or will your plants suffer periodic droughts when you get busy?
  • Are you looking for something that’s small and low profile
  • Do you want to create a visual wall between you and your co-worker with that uncomfortable habit of watching your every move?

Holmes and Scheller have created an infographic that will help you decide:

Office Plants